Booting – A Tool of Last Resort?


Booting – A Tool of Last Resort?

Booting has long been a tool of last resort in the collection of unpaid parking citations. A traditional boot is a large heavy metal device that clamps onto one of the wheels of a vehicle with the intent of preventing the vehicle from driving away. If you haven’t yet seen the television show Parking Wars, you’ve missed some humorous footage of angry people destroying their cars trying to drive away with a booted wheel. Auto body repair shop owners most surely wear a large grin while watching these episodes.

Booting is an effective tool to increase citation collection rates, even if it is not applied to every eligible vehicle.

Many cities already have booting programs that serve to collect thousands of dollars each month of delinquent parking citation revenue. Booting typically is only used for scofflaws (repeat offenders). Most parking programs set fairly generous thresholds for scofflaws before they become boot eligible. Typically, three or more parking citations must be unpaid for more than ninety days before a vehicle is marked as boot eligible. In the vast majority of the cases, a vehicle owner has received no fewer than five letters in the mail warning them of the consequences of not paying their outstanding parking tickets.

As cities deal with revenues lost during the pandemic, they must consider options to fund their operating budgets. Many cities suspended on-street parking fees and parking enforcement to some extent over the past eighteen months, already significantly depleting their coffers. As traffic returns to normal, and businesses open to capacity in our downtown areas, parking directors should be examining the unpaid parking citation balances of their programs. Many will find it more palatable to step up collection efforts of funds already due, instead of increasing parking rates or enforcement efforts and fine levels. Booting should be considered for those cities who have not previously used this proven tool. 

Booting is an effective tool to increase citation collection rates, even if it is not applied to every eligible vehicle. Many parking directors can attest that just the mere presence of a few booted vehicles on the streets will drive more citation payments. A few wise parking directors have even staged a booted vehicle in prominent locations to successfully encourage scofflaws to make good. If you go this route, you may want to go all in and decorate the staged booted vehicle with balloons and signs for maximum effect.

Traditional boots have been an effective tool, but self-releasing boot technology has provided many significant advantages. A few drawbacks of traditional boots are: 1) they are heavy, 2) they take a few minutes to apply, 3) an employee must remove the boot, which dramatically increases labor costs, and 4) it can take hours for the customer to pay and have the boot removed. Most parking enforcement programs are not staffed 24/7, which means booting is only performed during limited time windows, or boots are removed without payment after a set amount of time.

Self-releasing boots overcome many of the drawbacks of the traditional boot. Self-releasing boots have electronic locks that can be released when the customer enters the proper code. Self-releasing boot companies typically provide the customer a couple of payment options. Customers can call a 24/7 call center to make payment, receive instructions and receive the boot release code. Web payments are also an option for customers who will receive a release code along with their payment receipt via email/text. 

Customers who have been booted with a self-releasing device can typically make payment, remove the boot and be on their way in a few minutes. While having your car booted is never going to be an enjoyable experience, lessening your wait time to remove the boot by hours is preferred. Self-releasing boots also provide a safer process for both customer and employee. Not only are we reducing human contact, keeping COVID in mind, but the reduction of the potential for a negative customer-employee confrontation during the boot removal process also has immense value.

The current labor market also makes self-releasing boots a more attractive option for parking directors. The challenge of finding employees, particularly ones willing to perform boot removal, hinders effective staffing of parking enforcement programs. The dramatic increase in wage rates also tilts the economics of traditional booting programs. If a parking program can save two to six hours of payroll by choosing self-releasing boot technology over traditional boots, the math becomes very attractive.

When considering a self-releasing boot company, consideration should be given to how each can further enhance the performance of your enforcement program. Data analytics tools are also available to assist you in increasing the effectiveness of your booting program. Software that ingests citation, mobile payment, smart meter and LPR data can help you target and refine your booting efforts to optimize results. New York City’s booting program, which boots over 120,000 vehicles yearly, realized a 30 percent increase in their program performance after employing a company utilizing data analytics.

If your parking program is not currently employing booting as a tool and is looking for ways to increase compliance and program revenues, it may be time to investigate the use of one. Cities typically do not let property, business or sales taxes go uncollected. Why allow parking citations to age unnecessarily and eventually get written off?


Jack Skelton, JD – CAPP, Is Chief Commercial Officer, RISETEK Global – He can be reached at

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Jack Skelton
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